Thursday, 25 March 2010

Baked Black Bream or Besugo al Horno

This beautiful fish which I spotted yesterday at The Chelsea Fishmonger and couldn't resist, is a wild Black Bream.  It looks like one of my favourite fish, a large Gilt Head, but as this one was wild and the Gilt Heads on display were farmed I thought I'd go mad and go for wild and black.
Mat the fishmonger helpfully provided me with a printed out menu supplied by Paul, one of his regular food-obsessed customers.
Apparently bream in the oven or, Besugo al Horno, is a traditional Christmas dish in Spain but takes about an hour altogether rather than the half day needed for a turkey.  Potatoes are thinly sliced along with red onions and are then layered up in a greased dish.  A paste is made of garlic, saffron, parsley and salt mixed with olive oil and water and this is poured over the potato and onion base.  This is baked for 40 minutes and then the gutted, scaled, and slashed fish is placed on top for a further 20 minutes.
I varied Paul's recipe slightly by adding a few black olives I had lurking.  Before serving, sprinkle with more chopped parsley and grated lemon zest.  I turned the grill on inside the oven shortly before the end of cooking to crisp the skin up a bit.  The fish was perfectly cooked (you can test for doneness if you wiggle the side fin near the head; if it won't come out, the fish isn't quite done) and the potato slices were smoothly waxy and redolent of saffron (I used Marfona baking potatoes, Paul recommends King Edwards).  We drank a Vermentino from the south of France (more usually called Rolle there) but a rosé from the same region would have been good too.  


  1. Thanks for the mention, your dish looks and sounds perfect - the addition of olives is a great idea!

  2. Looks really, really great.
    Having now learned how to prep and cook fish, at the Billingsgate course, wishing had good fishmonger near me... just have supermarkets.

  3. Paul: it's a great recipe. Will try Gilt Head next time Mat has some wild. I like the way the potato absorbs the saffron flavour. Some oven-dried tomatoes wold be good too I think (though tomatoes are never terribly wine-friendly I find)

    Kavey: this was delicious. The Billingsgate course sounds interesting. I guess nearest good fishmonger I know in north London is Steve Hatt in Essex Road (near Angel)

  4. Oh. Wow. That is a beauty isn't it? This sounds really very tasty indeed and I intend on giving it a go as soon as I can find a good looking bream. Great tip re the side fin - i didn't know that and it'll save poking the fish with a knife trying to see if it's cooked.

  5. Lovely post & great photos Patrick and the outcome looks really tasty. I was a good job you spotted that bream and didn't need convincing it was better than the Giltheads in fact i must visit that fishmonger too as i have heard he is really witty :-)

  6. Grubworm: check out Chelsea Fish as they often have sea bream. They are a mine of information too (the mongers, not the bream)

    A London Fishmonger: glad you like the post, thanks :-)